Thursday, 31 March 2011


The latest entry on Alison's blog deals with stress and 'over exercising'. Interestingly her experience is very loosely related to what I'm going to witter on about today.

I'm not over exercising though. Not in the taper. After Tuesday's 6 slow miles, I headed for the gym yesterday to do a short intervals session. That was partly for the change of scene, partly because the treadmill would force me to keep up the paces and partly because it allowed me to swap the warm up and cool down miles for 2 x 10 minutes on the cross trainer. All done easily enough, all quite enjoyable. Its another rest day today.

No, my similarity with Alison is to do with stress and exercise, and more specifically to me, diet.

I feel a certain amount of pre-marathon stress but I don't think its a huge amount in itself. I have no fear of running 26.2 miles, no fear of running 18 miles at marathon pace but enough healthy fear of running 26.2 at that pace, and the recognition that 24 weeks of work all gear up to this one race. That's only to be expected though.

Add to that stress the stress of travelling to Paris, packing etc. Not that that is a huge stressor in isolation either, but it does add another layer.

The big one is probably work. Without going into detail, I have a certain amount of fear for my job and have had it since mid 2009. Over the last 6 months things looked better but the loss of a couple of contracts in February as well as the economic downturn since the change of government make things look rather less stable. They weren't my contracts, and my performance is very good this year, but neither factor might be taken into consideration if major cost cutting were needed. On Tuesday of next week there's an internal meeting which might not be very pleasant - in terms of warnings about the future. I might be worrying over nothing, the trouble is I don't know.

So, marathon stress feeds off work, and work stress feeds off marathon and travel. The result is that I'm sleeping relatively poorly and feel 'under pressure' all day long. Its difficult to explain but when I feel a lot of stress I reach a point where I get moody and spend the day feeling like all the muscles around my eyes, forehead, jaw are all held tense. When I get like that little things take on epic proportions.

The other typical symptom is bingeing on crap.

On Saturday I started off the day carb loading but this evolved/descended into a junk-fest in the evening including a large bar of Dairy Milk, a Daim Bar, half a dozen digestives and 2 bags of sweets. Sunday was slightly better as I limited myself (roughly) to maintenance levels. On Monday I was back on track, until sore quads gave me the excuse that I needed to eat excessively and another large Dairy Milk and bag of sweets followed, amongst other things.

Tuesday I did stay on the waggon but was then disappointed yesterday morning to note that the scales said I'd put on one pound since Friday. I hoped that was a temporary water/food gain from the weekend and, like Monday, got through the day very well only to fall apart in the evening. Between seven and eight last night I managed to put away three huge bowls of ice cream, several slices of cheese, the last 4 biscuits, 2 packets of crisps, half a dozen slices of toast and marmalade - all within an hour of finishing my tea. Then, having gone to read I ate a 'spare' Easter egg - the chocolate shell and the 'Caramel Creme Egg' inside. I don't even really like Caramels, and went to sleep at 9pm feeling sick.

Having reached 11st 11lbs last Friday I was hoping to get down to 11st 9lb by next Monday, after which carb depletion and loading govern my diet. At the moment though, it's one step forward and two back. In itself that's annoying - and stresses me further - but I don't feel like I can remove that stress by ignoring diet and switching off for a few days. That would stress me further still and eating junk leaves me feeling sluggish and bloated.

I'm going to try and get on, and stay on, track for just 4 more days. Exercise wise there's not a whole lot to do: 7 miles tempo tomorrow and 10 miles steady on Sunday so I'm going to try and devote my focus to diet.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Time Goes Slowly

Remember when you were a child waiting for Christmas? You knew it was getting closer, you opened a new window on your advent calendar every morning, but once you got within a couple of weeks time seemed to slow down, like there were 40 hours in every day.

On a similar theme I can't believe its only Wednesday morning.

Essentially the training is all done and, aside from tapering (which is by nature a passive 'activity'), all there is left to do is wait. And wait. And wait.

I can't even summon up much enthusiasm for the remaining runs. Yesterday the plan said 8 miles steady but I decided to reduce it to 6.5. In the event I ran a contrived 6.04 miles, felt sluggish, uninterested and slow. I know that's all symptomatic of the taper and has no bearing on marathon performance but its disappointing in itself.

Hopefully today's very short mixed intervals session will prove a bit more stimulating. Similar with Friday's tempo run. Sunday's (short) long run might be a bit dull so I may opt to throw in a couple of marathon pace miles at the end just to keep me interested.

Had a little think last night about if/when for the next marathon. It'll be a when rather than an if as if I miss 3:30 I'll feel I have unfinished business, and if I hit it I'll be sure I could get to 3:15 with more training and the loss of the lbs I didn't lose for this one. The big question is whether I'd go for another marathon this year; whether I'd feel mentally 'up' for doing it all again. There are some advantages though. I'd carry some of this training with me, I'd have established a good base, there would be no running to fit in with ice, snow and very short days. We'll see.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss

Yesterday afternoon I hopped onto the Runner's World website and saw there had been a couple of posts on visualisation ahead of the marathon. Building on that theme I made a very public comment along the lines of:

"I know there are lots of things that could go wrong but right now I feel confident that with good carb loading and tapering I'll hit my target in Paris, run negative splits and there will be no wall for me."

All pretty confident stuff eh?

Then, last night, I made the mistake of going onto the site again but looking at a thread dedicated to the 3:30 target. Unfortunately there were a number of comments from coaches, pseudo-coaches and seasoned veterans that pointed out various indicators that generally should be hit by anyone who thinks they could run sub 3:30. I'm afraid I didn't tick many of them off.

There were also comments from a very experienced and well known marathon coach along the lines of some sub 1:30 half marathon runners wont hit 3:30 and how so much is reliant on luck etc etc. I'm sure his style is just designed to stop people being unrealistic but it caused a bit of a wobble confidence wise and I wish I hadn't bothered looking at the thread.

However, I'm still going for it whether I hit, just miss or blow up badly in the attempt; and should I succeed, as I believe I can, then doing so will be all the more sweet.

Monday, 28 March 2011

All that hard work gone to waste...

First thing this morning I spent an hour writing up a post on all the things I'd learned from yesterday and therefore built into plans for Paris.

When I clicked 'Publish Post' I was asked to enter my password to log in...odd as I was already logged in and had to be so to be writing a post. When I entered it I got to a page that said my request could not be completed. When I then went to my blog the post wasn't published...not a problem though, it'll be auto saved in drafts...and it was...well...the first line was anyway.

Not impressed.

So, in a 5 minute break from work here's a brief version.

Clothing - Now sorted on everything I'll wear. New short, shorts worked perfectly well.

Hydration & Nutrition - Decided against carrying a bottle as it irritates me at faster pace. Taking a late decision to switch from Shot Bloks to SiS gels, partly because the former take such a lot of chewing that its difficult to eat them and breath when working hard and partly because the latter don't require water. Will rely on the water on the course and cut back on the water I have before the race to avoid the frequent toilet stops that interrupted yesterday's run and for which I won't have time in Paris.

Pace - If I ignore the first mile that the Garmin deceived me on and the last two where I deliberately speeded up, then I hit 7:54 average. That's exactly where I need it to be so that at best I'll have a buffer after 20 miles and at worst it'll protect me against the additional time for running further than 26.2 miles to complete the marathon.*

All in all I'm pretty happy with how it went - even though it didn't go precisely according to plan.

*The marathon course is measured precisely but the exact route the measurement takes is the shortest possible line around the course and exists as a painted blue line. If you deviate from that line to weave in and out of people, go the long way round a bend or cross the road to a drinks station you add a few metres on. These add up and at the end you'll certainly have ran at least a quarter of a mile further than 26.2 miles. If that proves the case I need to find an extra 120 seconds from somewhere (1/4 of 8 minutes) so running at 7:54 pace will do that.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Let the Taper Begin!

I'm going to start with an apology. This post is going to be a bit self indulgent but its designed to help me get my thoughts together from this morning's run. It was the last run before the taper truly starts so I'm going to cover:

  • The Run in Numbers

  • The Run in Words

  • Learning Points

Though I will leave the final part until tomorrow.

The Run in Numbers

The plan called for:

  • 2 miles warm up at about 9 minute mile pace

  • 12 miles at marathon pace of 7:55 - 8:00 a mile

  • 2 miles cool down at about 9 minute mile pace

What transpired was:

2 miles warm up at 8:33

  1. 8:10

  2. 7:58

  3. 8:01

  4. 7:53

  5. 7:55

  6. 7:49

  7. 7:53

  8. 7:56

  9. 7:56

  10. 7:54

  11. 7:52

  12. 8:03

  13. 7:45

  14. 7:15

Average for the last 14 miles: 7:53.

The Run in Words

My plan for today was to try and run as a bit of a trial run for Paris - same kit, similar fuelling, and obviously similar pace. That meant a first outing for my new (very, very short) race shorts but as it was 3c I opted for a t-shirt ahead of the club vest I'll wear on the day. It also meant I left behind the water bottle belt in favour of a marathon belt and hand held 'doughnut' bottle.

Before and during the warm up miles I somehow didn't feel 'up' for the run. For one thing I felt bloated and had stomach ache from the high carb diet yesterday but more than that I just felt a bit negative and even in the first mile I was thinking of reasons why it wouldn't matter if the run went badly, that it wouldn't provide any real reason for doubts etc. I also felt awkward in my running form.

However, I got through those first 2 miles, had a swig of water while re-setting the Garmin and off I went at what felt like the right pace. I was probably right too, but after a couple of hundred yards the Garmin disagreed telling me I was running at 7:03 a mile, and foolishly I took note, deliberately slowing my pace. Unfortunately that meant that at half a mile the Garmin was telling me I was doing 8:16 but this time I practised a bit of 'marathon approach' and only let myself speed up gradually in response. That gave the 8:10 opening mile.

Then, in mile two I took a break. That wasn't in the plan - I'd hoped to run straight through - but it was quite rural and quiet and I needed a pee! I also took the opportunity to take a gel and rearrange the marathon belt.

In mile three I stopped again, this time when I met Isaac, who used to run with our club. Bless him he gave me a bit of a lift as, having not seen me since September, he remarked that I looked 'really fit'. I was quite chuffed and gained a bit more positivity.

Mile three and four and five clocked on the button but in mile five I had two slightly surreal stops. First when I passed a guy I'd seen before, doing Tai Chi in some woods a mile from the nearest roads. He always looked very intense and was talking to himself as I approached but I thought I'd say hello anyway, but just after I'd gone past he called what sounded like 'Hey mate' or 'Hey Mick' so I stopped and turned round. He apologised for stopping me and called me Mick as if he knew me. Slightly strange exchange followed with me pointing out we'd never met and him saying I was the double of a Thai Boxer he used to train with called Mick Tobin and apologising profusely in the way that only very, very hard people do. Even more strange than last week's referee comment.

Second stop was another loo break just before 6 miles. I could see there was nobody ahead and as I stopped and took a step into the trees along the side of the towpath I looked back and the towpath was clear for the half mile I could see. Seconds later, once the, er, flow had begun I heard a female voice say 'Eugh no, is that man having a wee?' and a few seconds after that two ladies leisurely cycled past. I've no idea how I missed them.

At 6 miles I was clocking 7:58 a mile, partly because of a faster than planned mile 6.

The next 5 miles were all cock on, ranging from 7:52 to 7:56 and that's the sort of consistent pace and running I'll be looking for in the opening 20 in Paris. Little to report from these.

Mile 12 was a bit more of a challenge though. From here on I was certainly feeling it in my quads and maybe because of that my mind wandered a bit, and with that the pace. At the beginning of the mile I knew I was running at 7:56 pace overall, then I noted it drift to 7:57, pulled it back to 7:56, saw it drift again and pulled back again all within the mile but the split was 8:03.

According to the plan I was then due to drop to recovery pace but in recognition of the unplanned breaks I'd had I opted to carry it on at marathon pace; plus I didn't want that slightly slower mile to be the last one. I wanted to feel the mental and physical challenge of pushing on when it was beginning to hurt a bit.

Mile 13 had me trying to push a bit to make sure I stayed at pace and though somehow I missed the split, from the overall average knew I was running below 7:55. At 7:45 it was a bit quicker than I'd have wanted.

In the last mile I decided to speed it up a bit hoping for something like 7:30. It felt hard but I pushed onwards and did 7:15 despite allowing myself to ease a little in the last 200m or so.

Quads remain a bit sore but overall not too bad.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Urine the colour of Lucozade...

Yesterday was the last but one tough run of the training plan, and the longest tempo run of the plan too.

Here's how it went, in numbers:
  • 2 miles warm up @ 8:45 pace
  • Mile 1 @ 7:27
  • Mile 2 @ 7:26
  • Mile 3 @ 7:28
  • Mile 4 @ 7:28
  • Mile 5 @ 7:28
  • Mile 6 @ 7:27
  • Mile 7 @ 7:29
  • Mile 8 @ 7:29
  • Mile 8.5 @ 7:24
  • 2 miles cool down @ 8:54

Generally quite pleased with that. At 7:27 a mile the average pace isn't a great deal lower (if at all) than previous half marathon paced tempo runs and I could really feel it in that last mile and a half but the splits are by far the most consistent and, bottom line, it was just below target pace of 7:30 for the toughest tempo in the plan.

Afterwards I really felt shattered. My glutes and quads were sore (and the former had been when running), I struggled to summon the energy even to shower for a while. Having said that, my glutes were sore before I even started and the tiredness was dehydration.

That last point is a good one to remember ahead of Paris. I thought I drank well enough on Wednesday and pre-run yesterday. When I got into the car afterwards I drank 200ml of water and had the same amount of protein shake when I got in, as well as a mug of roibos tea. Yet I only peed once in several hours and felt so exhausted in the last stages of the tempo and cool down but also afterwards. Assume I wasn't quite as hydrated as I thought and 12.5 miles in warm weather at half pace makes for a lot of water usage one way or another.

So, special attention to hydration in the 2 days before and a steady amount of water during - even if it means losing a bit of time for pee breaks!

I may learn more on this from tomorrow's marathon pace run.

Friday, 25 March 2011


This week both is and isn't the beginning of the taper. Officially it isn't yet I sort of feel it ought to be, so, I've decided on some definite amendments and some possible changes for the next 3 days.

The week contains three quality sessions: yesterday's intervals, today's tempo and Sunday's marathon pace endurance run. I definitely don't want to water down the quality elements of those but I do want to reduce training volume to 80-85% of last week's. That's my concession to the taper.

So at the moment I plan to:

  • Keep the 8.5 miles at marathon pace today but may drop 0.5 - 1.5 miles of the 4 miles of warm up/cool down (like I did with the intervals)
  • Definitely drop the core stability work and the 2 mile recovery run from Saturday to make it a rest day
  • I might cut a mile off Sunday's 16 mile run but if I do it'll be a recovery mile.

If I just drop Saturday's run I'll be at 85%. If I take out another 2.5 miles from today and Sunday I'll be at 80%. Likelihood is I won't decide what to do with those runs until I'm doing them.

I am definitely going to be taking out a couple of miles from next week and the week after though. Theoretically, next week should be 50% of last week's mileage but I can't see any way to get it below 61% and even that relies on me squeezing out more than just warm up/cool down/recovery miles. So, I'll be dropping both cross training days for rest days (but retaining the stretching and core work). Close enough.

Yesterday, was cross training and core day. Legs felt slightly tired later in the day (contributing to the decision to go for rest tomorrow) and glutes have very slight soreness today. Neither will interfere with today's tough old tempo run though.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Has Spring Sprung?

Or, to give an alternative title: Taper Madness Part II.

Do you remember 4 years ago when the media made a huge fuss over temperatures at the London Marathon reaching as high as 23c, intimating that a marathon in these temperatures would be a super human challenge? Well, a week earlier I'd done my first marathon in Paris and the temperature hit 32c. It wasn't nice.

Two years ago I spent the final 3 weeks frantically checking a variety of weather forecasts, and rode a roller coaster of hope and fear as a result. Some days the forecast might be for 8c and drizzle, the very next day it would change to 23c and sun only to change again the day after. Unsurprisingly there was only any consistency in the forecast in the 2-3 days before, and the temperature on the day reached about 21c.

This year I'm a little more chilled about it. I can't alter the weather, all I can do is adapt my plans accordingly - especially around nutrition and hydration - and have the expectation of 17/18c.

To that end, its been good to get in a couple of runs this week at 15/16c. The current local forecast says the weather will change for the weekend but whether that will be a temporary blip or a signal of a return to the seasonal norm I don't know.

Seeing sudden growth in previously winter dormant trees and plants and feeling the sun on my skin is certainly a psychological boost so, obviously I'd like it to continue. Equally, the ability to get some more runs in at warmer temperatures might serve as acclimatisation in case the Paris temperature is high. However, a sustained period of good weather here probably means a sustained period of even warmer weather in Paris leading up to and including the race.

Yesterday's warm weather run was mixed intervals.

I opted to cut the warm up and cool down miles a bit, partly because I don't feel I really need them, and partly to reduce the week's training volume a little. I did 0.65 before and 0.2 after, so chopped out 1.15 miles.

Results of the intervals were (targets in brackets):

3k @ 7:18 pace (7:30)
2k @ 7:02 pace (7:08)
1k @ 6:37 pace (6:53)
0.8k @ 6:24 pace (6:40)

It was hard work but quite enjoyable.

I later checked these against the performance tables in 'Brain Training for Runners'. These tables give target paces for training, and according to the book a runner could move up 4-6 levels over 24 weeks. I possibly started one level too high and have only officially moved up one level since but these indicate a further two, as would my typical run times. That doesn't mean I'll alter what I'm doing at this late stage but it does give another confidence boost as the lower levels equate to a correspondingly lower potential marathon time - and therefore make my target seem all the more achievable.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Taper Madness (Part I)

I say 'Part I' not because I already have follow ups planned, just that further instances of taper madness seem almost inevitable.

If you're a marathon veteran you'll know what I mean, but for the benefit of those who aren't it goes something like this...

...if training has gone fairly well, by the time you reach the taper you feel pretty much ready for the marathon, but its still 2-3 weeks away. During this time you progressively cut back on your training, which feels counter intuitive: you feel that you ought to be squeezing in quality runs still, and certainly feel that cutting back on training will eat into your hard gained fitness. Between the marathon being so close yet so far, and the training easing off, you spend a good deal of time thinking, or more accurately worrying. In fact, any moment of free time is likely to be spent this way, and its often referred to as taper madness.

I've been afflicted, a little, for the first two days of this week yet I'm arguably not yet in the taper. According to my plan the taper doesn't start until next Monday - a 2 week taper - and this week's intervals and tempo run are the hardest ones in the plan. That goes against conventional wisdom (which would have mileage reducing by 20% this week) and different from most, if not all, of my Paris compatriots. Moreover, looking at their plans for the next 3 weeks they seem to have less miles than me by some way.

Naturally, that is potent fuel for taper madness.

On the one hand I feel I should just trust the plan. On the other I feel I should do what I've done throughout and modify the plan where I see fit. I'm also conscious that I missed a couple of runs in early March, missed a week in early February and have substituted one recovery run a week for cross training or rest so that the overall fatigue level may not be as high.

By Monday evening I was mentally ticking off areas where I could take the edge off the plan: cut Tuesday's run from 10 to 8 miles, drop Saturday's 2 mile recovery run, switch the intervals for fartlek, cut Sunday's run from 16 to 15 miles. Nothing drastic, just enough to cut mileage to something closer to 80% of peak. By yesterday morning I was reconsidering all of that.

This was the dilemma that provided the mental back drop to yesterday's run, which was scheduled to be 10 miles at base pace.

As I set off my legs still had a hint of soreness in the calves, though only a hint, but a steep climb of 0.2 miles in the first mile slowed me right up and left me feeling a little leaden. This carried on into miles two and three and I started to consider cutting to 8 miles. Then, as I started mile 4 I felt a little better, as if I was only just warmed up, and opted to carry on to 4.5 miles and then the full 5. I'd gone out at an average of 8:22.

On the way back I found I'd speeded up: 8:07 for mile 6 and 8:04 for mile 7. So, I decided once more to roll with it and do what my legs seemed to want to do so that I could do the last 3 miles at marathon pace, figuring that 3 miles wouldn't do too much damage and that running at race pace on (what still felt) tired legs and in 15c heat might prove a worthwhile experience ahead of Paris.

Last three miles came in at 8:00, 7:58 and 7:43.

I'm content that I did the right thing but I'll stay flexible for the remainder of the week's sessions (starting with today's intervals) and will certainly cast a critical eye over the next 2 week's schedules as I still can't help but feel trimming out a few miles might be wise.

Diet yesterday: back on track.

Casting an eye over the remainder of the plan will doubtless feature in today's mental ruminations but I wonder what else I'll find to worry about?

Fuelling....the to pack my entry...not knowing what shops/food are near the hostel to help with carb loading...hydration...blisters...pacing...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wilful Over Consumption

That title sounds a bit dramatic doesn't it? Don't worry, it's nothing bad, and I'll return to that in a moment.

Yesterday was a rest day so I limited myself to a stroll to the gym where I spent 15 minutes stretching.

My legs didn't feel too bad, considering, just a little soreness in the calves. Compared to typical post marathon or post long run recovery I was way ahead of the game. For example, I had no problem with running up/down stairs but I didn't feel much inclination to do it.

This is where the title comes in.

On Saturday I carb loaded and hence went way over maintenance level in terms of calories. On Sunday I wasn't far off. So, yesterday the initial plan was to get my diet back in order by not quite eating to maintenance level.

By late afternoon that was pretty much where I was at but with 10 miles scheduled for today, a little soreness and a feeling of fatigue, I decided to give myself a blast of both protein and carbs; and therefore calories too.

I'd love to say it was all very clearly scientific, measured and structured but while it did include a protein shake, an extra serving of quorn, a glass of skimmed milk and a night time recovery drink (Nocte); it also included sweets, biscuits, chocolate, crisps and ice cream. That will have taken me some way over maintenance level.

Thing is though, there was a degree of design even to that. I felt jaded so was happy to bombard myself with carbs to refuel the muscles ahead of today's run but more than that I wanted to recognise that Sunday's run was a decent effort and accomplishment and in the context of that eating a number of treats was quite permissible. I could relax a little.

Not sure if that makes sense (or this bit) but from an emotional perspective it was very different to stress induced binges. There was little feeling that I had to cram as much in as possible (sometimes I've eaten lots of toast and cereal way beyond the point of being full and bloated) , no feeling of being hemmed in by diet and that it was one last hurrah, no feeling of self-sabotage. I wouldn't say it was entirely guilt free but it was certainly very much in that ball park.

That means that today I feel no guilt about it and a return to slight calorie restriction today isn't met with grim resolution but with contentment that that is the right thing to do today, as yesterday's intake was the right way to go then.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Final Three Weeks

A week on and its bright sunshine again, come on spring, you can do it!

After yesterday's run my legs still feel surprisingly good. A hint of stiffness but that's all. Maybe it'll get worse for tomorrow? Rest day today though, but I will have a good stretch at the gym later.

Even when yesterday's run was feeling good and I was allowing myself to up the pace and distance I still had a nagging fear that perhaps I was allowing myself to peak too soon meaning that my legs could be shot for the next week, and still be carrying a hint of fatigue come the race in 3 weeks.

On that basis I'm as pleased with my recovery (so far) as I am with the distance and pace towards the end. It looks like my fuelling and hydration strategy look sound and that my body is fairly well trained.

This week is the last 'normal' training week, then its a 2 week taper. It feels very much like this week contains the final two pieces in the jigsaw: a 12.5 mile tempo run and 16 mile endurance run (with 12/14 miles at marathon pace) and that the other runs this week and the running in the last 2 weeks are just there to maintain things. Those two runs seem to have very specific speed endurance training benefits that will compliment the pure endurance benefit of yesterday's run. I don't have any fear of being able to go the distance at a reasonable pace,but the final thing I'd like to be underlined to myself is the ability to go the distance at target pace.

For the record the last 3 weeks look like:

Three weeks to go...
  • Monday - rest day
  • Tuesday - 10 miles steady
  • Wednesday - 6.5 miles intervals
  • Thursday - Cross training
  • Friday - 12.5 miles tempo
  • Saturday - 2 miles recovery
  • Sunday - 16 miles with 12/14 at marathon pace

Two weeks to go...

  • Monday - rest day
  • Tuesday - 8 miles steady
  • Wednesday - 5.5 miles intervals
  • Thursday - cross training
  • Friday - 9 miles tempo
  • Saturday - 2 miles recovery
  • Sunday - 13 miles steady

One week to go...

  • Monday - rest day
  • Tuesday - 6 miles steady
  • Wednesday - 5 miles intervals
  • Thursday - rest day
  • Friday - 4 miles tempo
  • Saturday - rest day
  • Sunday - the race

Not sure if I'll modify that at all. Probably not.

Feeling good.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Are you a referee?

That was a rather surreal question that a pair of octogenarian cyclists asked me this morning. All the more strange as I was running along a canal towpath.

Now for the tale of the last truly long run before Paris. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

The Plan
The plan called for 22 miles at somewhere between 8:18 and 9:11 pace, but as with all my long runs I fine tuned it a little.

Earlier this week I'd decided to do 22.25, simply because 2 weeks ago I'd done 22.10 By yesterday I'd upped that to the rounder figure of 22.50 as that would mean the 0.4m extra (compared to the last) would be 1/8 of the remaining miles to a full marathon distance.

As I approached halfway today I changed that again, to 22.67, and then at about 21.5 I changed it for the final time to 23 miles - simply because I felt good.

Pace wise the plan was to run slower than last time (when I'd averaged 8:19 a mile but struggled from 20 miles), by getting to something like 20 miles at just over 8:30 pace and then running the last 2 miles at 8:00 a mile.

In the event the numbers altered a little but the overall principle remained.

Route & Conditions
I started right from the centre of Leeds, at the very beginning of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and ran along the towpath until just before the town of Shipley.

Conditions under foot were good - no puddles, very little mud and pretty good path all the way.

It was dry, cloudy, with a strongish breeze.

The Run
I set off as planned and kept pretty much to target pace until after halfway. If anything at this point I was averaging a few seconds slower per mile than anticipated, clocking 8:38 a mile on average by 11.25 miles.

I decided then to try and knock the average down by 1 second per mile by very gradually getting faster until 20 miles so that I'd then be marginally ahead of target at 8:30 a mile before the final marathon pace push.

I was spot on for this when I hit 12 miles, and a little ahead by 13 but without any conscious effort I was speeding up more than anticipated and a few miles followed with the pace fluctuating between 8:07 and 8:15.

This trend continued with mile 18 close to marathon pace, then mile 19 came in a decent chunk under marathon pace.

The risk was that this pace would mean I'd blow up in the last miles but I really did feel good and decided to roll with it. Next three miles still comfortably under target marathon pace and still not a sniff of the wall or of anything to impact pace so from 21 miles I decided to push just a fraction harder so that the last 2 miles were completed at half marathon pace.

I could definitely have carried on - no question.

The Numbers
  1. 8:52
  2. 8:54
  3. 8:50
  4. 8:38
  5. 8:38
  6. 8:27
  7. 8:30
  8. 8:33
  9. 8:24
  10. 8:38
  11. 8:36
  12. 8:31
  13. 8:21
  14. 8:10
  15. 8:15
  16. 8:11
  17. 8:07
  18. 8:03
  19. 7:40
  20. 7:48
  21. 7:47
  22. 7:27
  23. 7:30


Look away any Vegetarians/Vegans/Clean Eaters/Opponents of American cultural and economic imperialism... the absence of a recovery drink I called in at the drive through of a well known chain of 'restaurants' and had a Big Mac, medium fries and a bottle of orange juice.

By the time I got in I can't say I felt overly stiff and certainly didn't feel the aches or mental fatigue that followed the last long run. My guess is that means I got the fuelling right before and during the run.

Right now I feel a little worn out but nothing excessive -about what I'd expect form a 13/14 mile run rather than 23 miles.

Plus Points & Learning Points
OK, I recognise that much of the run was done at a slow pace but the bottom line is I got to 23 miles feeling very strong and running well under target pace at that point.

I took a fraction more water and that helped, and I started on the Shot Bloks much earlier which will have helped me avoid feeling drained late on.

I've also decided from this run that I will wear the 2xu calf guards (and sod what I look like) and will also wear the Skins compression shorts, simply because they prevent any chaffing. I'll also run in my Nike shoes rather than the Saucony race shoes.

The Shot Bloks worked well in terms of effect but weren't easy to eat on the move. Imagine trying to eat three 3/4 inch cubes of very, very chewy jelly - it wouldn't be easy to consume them while a little out of breath as it blocks the mouth for a minute or two, plus they need water. I'll test some SiS gels next week then may go with a mix of both on the day.

I'd hoped to keep moving all the way but stopped for a pee twice on the way out and once on the way back, stopped for 30 seconds or so for my last two gels (as I couldn't put the water bottle back in my belt while moving) and for 10 seconds or so each way when I dropped something (pack of Shot Bloks on the way, a drinks bottle top on the way back). By the end though I was 2 miles 'overdue' for my next gel so that was another positive.

Overall I feel very positive.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Friday tempo

I want tomorrow's run to be a bit of a Paris dress rehearsal - similar kit, more gels, similar time on my feet etc. As part of that I tried my hand at carb loading today. I suspect I got to about 450g of carbs (some 150g short) but will have gone a good 1500 - 2000kcals above maintenance. Needs a bit of fine tuning I think.

Anyway, yesterday's tempo run went pretty well.

Plan called for 2 miles warm up, 8 miles at 7:30 pace then 2 miles cool down and the results were:

  1. 8:29
  2. 8:15
  3. 7:38
  4. 7:27
  5. 7:27
  6. 7:25
  7. 7:34
  8. 7:32
  9. 7:30
  10. 7:20
  11. 9:08
  12. 8:57

That meant the middle 8 came out bang on the money really at 7:29. Pleased enough with that.

Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Want to know what your life and dreams will be like past 40?

Here's a window into the post 40 world and a glimpse of my worrying psyche.

With Sue and a friend taking the kids to a theatre last night I had the place to myself. I could go wild: eat anything, drink anything, watch anything, do anything.

So what wild revelry did I opt for?

At 6.45pm I made a brew, and took myself, a novel and the netbook to bed. By 9pm I'd been falling asleep for a good half hour so I turned off the light and went to sleep. Wonderful.

Trouble was that at 2am I was awake again.

I'd just had a dream where I'd gone into a little old newsagent/corner shop/sweet shop of the sort you don't see nowadays but were commonplace in the 70s/80s and was looking at all the different sweets.

It was like a coca and sugar based Aladdin's cave: there were jar upon jar of sweets that could be bought by the 1/4lb; the counter was glass fronted and contained trays of liquorice, white mice, and various 'penny sweets'; the entire counter was almost covered with a sloping display with every manner of chocolate bar that does or has existed; and when I woke I was looking at the 'top shelf' (with all the illicit connotations that brings forth) containing various other sweets including foot long tubes of Rowntrees fruit gums. I'm hoping there was nothing Freudian about the top shelf desire for something foot long...

Having woke, I lay for over an hour in that strange state where you are fully awake, very conscious that you can't get back to sleep, with my mind absolutely whirring, still in a slightly unreal dreamlike way, thinking about sweets, chocolate, carb loading, energy gels etc.

I think I know what caused all this.

The mind whirring and the inability to sleep right through is a sign that I'm on edge. In this instance its part work, part marathon and part the knowledge of tough runs today and Sunday.

The content links back to last night. As I lay in bed I was looking at Runners World website and the Paris thread where there had been discussion of gels and carbs. That was echoed in the dream and was more clearly there in the confused 'hyper-thinking' that then kept me awake.

I also felt a strong temptation to eat sweets last night. I often do if everyone else goes out. Its my treat. Not 12ft from where I lay yesterday evening was a box of Marksies Jelly Beans that I'd recently bought and put to one side to take to Paris. I had to use a fair bit of willpower to stop myself raiding them but that very clearly played into my dreams.

With post-forty excesses limited to strong tea, Agatha Christie and early nights is anyone now rethinking their views on euthanasia I wonder?

Beyond my (sugar) decayed mind there's little to report from yesterday. I went to the gym and did 30 minutes on the cross trainer plus core stability exercises and stretches, and ate sensibly.

There's 12 miles to do today, with 8 at half marathon pace. That's a tough run but I feel fairly optimistic. My mood all this week, as regards the marathon, has been upbeat but today's blog entry has contained enough of an insight into my mind so, perhaps, more on that another day?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Nice Surprise

The way the weather has been the last few days its difficult to believe that Monday's sunshine was in the same week.

No idea what the weather has been like in your part of the world but in Leeds yesterday and Nottingham the day before it was drizzle and very thick fog all day. Today looks to be heading the same way.

As the weather wasn't so good I opted to do yesterday's intervals in the gym. The odd dreadmill run has the added benefit of meaning I run in a warm atmosphere (a bit of preparation for Paris?) and reduces the impact a bit, though that doesn't seem to cause me a problem generally. I can only do intervals though as I find it incredibly tedious.

The plan called for a mixed intervals session of:
  • 1 mile @ 9:00 pace
  • 3k @ 7:30 pace
  • 2k @ 7:08 pace
  • 1k @ 6:53 pace
  • 0.5m @ 6:40 pace
  • 1 mile @ 9:00 pace

Whether inside or out that needs a bit of converting from metric to imperial to get the distances right as they're mixed up. In the gym getting the pace right is easier as the treadmill does it for me but it does mean I need to convert minutes per mile to kilometres per hour.

That was OK though as I'd done the same thing last week and could remember that the faster intervals were conveniently memorable at 13.5, 14.0, 14.5 and 15.0 km per hour.

Yesterday the first interval felt a bit of a drag and they all got me working but overall it felt relatively easy: I was able to get straight off and walk to the drinks fountain without being out of breath or anything between each interval.

When I got in I logged them all on WLR but for some reason double checked them on this useful speed/distance conversion site... seems (to use a Bush-ism) I'd mis-remembered the figures so they were all 0.5kmph faster than they should have been: starting at 7:08 and finishing at 6:25 per mile. In fact the last one was a bit faster still as I upped it to what would have been 6:00 pace for the last 200m.

If nothing else it looks like the training has got my pace up for shorter distance runs! I wonder what I could run a 10k, 5k or even a mile in now?

Diet wise all was well again.

Legs feel fine today, and whilst RH side groin felt a bit sore yesterday evening it seems fine again now - slowly getting better I should think. Today is cross training and tomorrow 12.0 mile tempo run, which, after yesterday's intervals, I'm looking forward to more than I was before.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

One down three to go

Ten miles completed last night but not with the club. I got in later than expected from a meeting so didn't feel a compulsion to work at home and instead opted to take advantage of the last of the daylight and to run immediately Did 10 miles at 8:17 pace with a bit of groin pain after but nothing terrible.

Diet wise it was a pretty good day, little more to say than that!

Into the last 25 days pre-Paris now and that means I'm spending a lot of time deliberating. That can be a curse or a blessing. As I drove to/from yesterday's meeting I mapped out what I planned to o for the last 3 weeks (which was good), but then last night my head was spinning and I couldn't get to sleep (which wasn't).

Plan/themes are:

Continuing a policy of 'flexible restriction' over the next 2.5 weeks, i.e. I'll aim for a deficit but at the first sign of fatigue or hunger I'll eat more. After that its maintaining for a few days with some element of carb depletion and then serious carb loading for the last 3 days.

Its a fairly heavy week this week including 22 miles on Sunday. Next week cranks up again during the week and finishes with 16 miles (12 at MP). Then its taper time, with the last week just having 3 runs totalling about 14 miles pre-marathon. So, will make the most of the next 10 days and also finalise clothing/fuelling in these last runs.

Will do the core stability programme 3 times a week with odd extras each day (groin allowing) for the next 2.5 weeks. In the last week will only do it once.

Full routine 3 times a week after strengthening but daily calf stretching too, as well as basic stretching after each run. Aim is part to reduce knots/trigger points but also part to improve efficiency a fraction through making agonists more readily elastic. Also using massage stick lightly each day until the marathon.

Intervals session today. Only decision is whether to do them inside or out. We shall see.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Ouchy abs and a return to the club

Yesterday was a rest day and a lovely sunny day. A day that would be perfect for marathon running for me: bright, no wind but still only about 6c. Still a month before the marathon it was 17c in Paris yesterday though...

I felt pretty good and off the back of that decided to walk to the gym but avoided the temptation to do even a light workout on the cross trainer or to swim, instead I limited myself to a slightly truncated core stability workout and some stretching.

That was fine and I quite enjoyed it but I needed to truncate it because of some sharp pain at a point in my RH lower deep abs. I know what caused it.

On Sunday, as I ran through Saltaire, my right foot slipped inward into some sort of hole or big gap between slabs. I stumbled and carried on running but as I slipped I felt a sharp pain at that point in my core, presumably because either the core was already flexed or because they're what fought to keep me upright.

I have 10 miles steady to do this evening and I don't expect it to affect that. I don't recall any pain when running on Sunday and aside from a really, really slight twinge when (for example) sitting up from a lying position and the pain when specifically exercising that area there's no general discomfort.

Tonight will be my first run with the running club in close to 6 months. For me, marathon training has been a very solitary process (aside from wittering on about it on here), where I run set distances at set paces. Today, I'll run down to the club and back and then run in between with one of the groups. Whether that's a slower or faster group I'm yet to decide, and the decision on that will partly be driven by how far it is to get to the club. I don't know. On the one hand running with a steady group would limit the strain on my body ahead of tomorrow's intervals but running with a quicker group might well have a far better training effect.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The sun is shining

Its amazing what a difference that makes to me.

The last few years I've found I really dislike winters: the constant oppressive dullness, the cold, the feeling that everything is either dead or asleep, the short days. I grasp desperately at any small hint that spring may be on its way.

Whilst this year hasn't been so bad for me I still really get a lift from the sunshine.

The last 4/5 miles of yesterday's run were done in the sunshine (not a great combination with a bald head!) and whilst that should have made it harder my running actually improved. In the afternoon I sat on the sofa with a cup of tea and a book, facing a large bay window and could hardly have felt more relaxed. At that point I hadn't logged any food for the day but the wave of sunshine induced happiness encouraged me to do so and I'm glad I did.

Despite it being a Monday morning I feel upbeat today too. My legs feel fine, I'm already looking forward to the run tomorrow evening. The scales tell me news that can be viewed as being 'half empty' or 'half full' and I'm inclining towards the latter.

I'm going to make a concerted effort at stretching over the next 3 weeks and that will start today. I'll also book a massage for a few days before the marathon. Beyond that it'll be a rest day today, with maybe just a short walk somewhere to give an excuse for getting in the sun for 20 minutes.

Happy days.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Today's run: looking at the positives

Well, it wasn't a complete disaster...

The earlier post from this morning gives an idea of my mental state ahead of today's run so its hardly surprising it wasn't perfect but here goes.

Took the decision to start a couple of miles further on to the route than I'd originally planned, mainly to avoid a couple of very muddy stretches. Also decided to give a first public outing for my legs in race shorts and shining white 2xu calf guards. Not pretty.

By the time I'd parked up the rain had stopped but I still felt no enthusiasm to run. In fact, just before setting off I felt a feeling that I can only describe as a brief moment of dread. That's probably overstating it but for that moment I really did not want to run and felt trapped into doing it. Never had that before and happily it lasted only a few seconds.

Plan was to run 5 miles starting at something like 8:45 pace then increasing speed gradually so that by the 5 mile mark I'd average a shade under 8:30 pace. After that I'd run 10 miles at or just below 8 minute mile pace.

The first 3 mile were ostensibly right on the money at 8:37, 8:29 and 8:22 respectively but like yesterday's run, in terms of effort I felt like I was running a good 20s faster than that. At 3 miles I stopped briefly to take advantage of the canal being particularly well hidden by bushes off excess fluids and was surprised how much I was sweating despite wearing no more than I might for a summer's run on an overcast and fairly windy day.

Although I'd had a little rest the next 2 miles followed the same trend of feeling tough and I actually slowed down with miles of 8:45 and 8:32. By this point I'd been negotiating with myself for a few minutes and had decided to placate my demons by switching the run to 7.5 miles out at this pace then switching to marathon pace only on the way back.

At 5.4 I'd stopped briefly to gobble down 3 Clif Shot Bloks and have a swig or two of water. That seemed to refresh me briefly but as I passed the 6 mile mark everything suddenly seemed such an effort and running up a couple of short slopes for bridges seemed draining to the point that I couldn't even feel any benefit from the reciprocal downs.

The urge to stop was huge and I gave in to it at 6.25 miles, but still felt committed to at least attempting marathon pace on the return. Psychologically I did seem to get a bit of a lift from that and ran the first 1/4 mile at what I think was at least close to 8 minute miling before realising I hadn't 'lapped' the Garmin to start the return as a fresh run.

With the watch restarted I detoured to take the river and road route for the first 3 miles back. Initially it felt fine and a look at the Garmin told me I was running at 7:59 pace before I faded a bit on an uphill section to do the first mile in 8:10. Mile 2 was better though at 7:59 and even though mile 3 slipped to 8:06 I was pleased to be getting something out of the run. Mile 4 was 7:58 but included a minute's break to finish the Shot Bloks. For the last 2 miles I finally began to feel some rhythm in my running and the pace increased in line with that to give 7:41 and 7:32, which didn't feel too terrible.

Until that point the run had felt uncharacteristically hard for legs, lungs and heart. also, other things bothered me: my gait felt awkward and somehow unnatural; my water belt felt annoyingly heavy and unstable;I felt ungainly and somehow cumbersome; the way fully waterproofed walkers hogged the path forcing me into the mud and puddles irked me; dog owners seeming oblivious to their unleashed pets likewise. Overall it all just felt a bit of an effort.

Looking back I'm pleased that I ran and am happy that at least I did some marathon pace running OK. I don't think there is any fundamental problem, just 3 poorer runs together. A bit of TLC tomorrow should have be back to normal for Tuesday's run.


That's what I've been doing this morning.

According to my original plan I should be just coming towards the end of this morning's 15 mile run. Instead I'm in bed typing this.

The run isn't off though, just delayed, and that's probably down to my being probably over cautious. I'd best give a little context.

Friday's run wasn't a disaster but nor was it as successful as I'd expected. The plan called for 5.5 miles at 7:30 pace with a 1.5 mile jog both before and after and I expected that to be straightforward. After the warm up 1.5 I set off at what felt about right pace wise and a glance at the Gamin confirmed it but next time I looked, after half a mile, my average pace was at 8:00 a mile. I'd day dreamed as I ran and my pace had slipped in the process. I increased my efforts but by the end still only had the pace at 7:35. That doesn't sound too bad but what concerned me was that it felt very, very hard work and I'd had half a minute's break at halfway.

Yesterday I wasn't due to run but decided to do about 5 miles at a steady pace. I ran from home so it was a mix of road and trail generally downhill on the way out generally uphill on the way back. I felt fine when I set off but an early look at the Garmin suggested I was running well over a minute slower than I had presumed. I pushed on and by mile one was averaging 8:12. Mile two was 8:20. Then at halfway I felt a sudden need for a rest and did so for a couple of minutes. The pace and distance shouldn't have required one but I felt really pooped.

I carried on and whilst I didn't try to push pace, took a little detour across an unclear trail through the woods and was running uphill my speed was still lower than expected and the remainder of the run averaged 9 minute miles, and thta with two more short breathers. Like Friday, it wasn't the pace that was the worry it was the fact that it felt much tougher than the pace should have warranted.

That might have been down to having a very slight cold (a bit wheezy on an evening, and slightly bunged up on waking but nothing more) but I really don't want today's run to go the same way.

My plan for today is 15 miles with the first 5 at base pace then the last 10 at marathon pace. If I feel OK at the end I might add on half a mile or more for luck but that's far from obligatory. I'd also like to do this, and the remaining runs, in kit similar to that I'll be wearing in Paris which means wearing road shoes.

Its been raining steadily overnight and heavily this morning though, meaning the canal is apt to get muddy in places. As a result I've adjusted my route and have been waiting for the rain to ease off this morning.

I've also felt rather sluggish as one bi-product of the difficult runs was a decision to undertake some rather unstructured, and heavy, carb loading last night to make sure I'm ready for today's run. Hindsight tells me that was completely unnecessary but yesterday it left me feeling more in control of my destiny with regards to the success of today's run. I hope that doesn't sound too melodramatic!

Still coming down heavily now but I can't really delay much longer. Here goes.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Dreadmill Running

When we had all the snow before Christmas I ran at the gym at least once most weeks. Since then I've tended to use the gym only for cross training and done all my running outdoors.

The strong winds this week (yesterday the wind here gusted to 70mph and in Leeds city centre a man was killed when a lorry blew over onto him) sent me scurrying to the gym instead. Wednesday's intervals on the treadmill were ok, but the longest was only 9 minutes long and there was 2 minutes walking between each. All quite tolerable.

Yesterday was due to be cross training but having skipped Tuesday's run - which was only 6 miles in this cut back week - I decided to give it a go at the gym. Plan was to either run 3 miles and cross train for 25 minutes or do it all on the treadmill.

I couldn't remember what normal pace would be and later found I started off at 9:20 pace. That was fine in that it felt effortless but the kilometres went by so, so slowly. By 3km I knew 5km would be my limit and at 4km I upped the pace to what I knew was half marathon speed, then with 250m to go upped it to 6 minute mile pace. The extra effort felt more natural and allayed the tedium, but I now know my treadmill limits - use it for short intervals only. After that I did just 20 minutes on the cross trainer as that seemed to balance the extra effort at the end.

Food intake was fine once again, due in part to a rather good goulash I popped in the slow cooker Wednesday night. As an atheist (with occasional agnostic tendencies) Friday, of course, means fish. Looking forward to that.

Tempo run today. The wind speed seems to have halved. Yesterday was 34mph gusting to 70mph, today is 17mph presumably gusting to 34mph. I may even risk the canal towpath (where trees came down yesterday). If I don't post tomorrow you'll know where to send the fire brigade.

Thanks for yesterday's comments. A plan is slowly revealing itself to me. More on that nearer the time.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Goal setting and a fear of failure

Before I adhere to the title I'll do a one sentence resumé of yesterday:

Did intervals session on the dreadmill due to the gales - all fine - and stuck quite well to calorific target. Well done me.

For someone who has run two marathons previously I'm still very much the novice. In part that's because my first two forays into the realms of the 26.2 miler were deliberately 'safe'.

In 2007 I had a good deal of disruption to training in the final weeks and on the day it was 32c, some 25c warmer than any run I'd done in the previous 6 months. I took it very easy but was still badly affected by the heat.

Then, in 2009, I'd only trained off 2 runs a week for 12 weeks due to a lower leg injury that had kept me on the injury bench for nearly 8 weeks beforehand. I set myself a suitably conservative target, did the first half very slowly as a result and ran comfortable negative splits.

This time I'm gunning for an ambitious target. Probably.

On Runners World there has been a bit of discussion of late about gold, silver and bronze targets for the race and I really don't feel I can set mine yet.

All along I've been looking at 3:30 but that's mainly been based on a September 10k time indicating I might be able to do 3:28 or similar. That's assuming I'm equally suited to the longer distance and am not a more natural 10k runner - and I have no idea if that's the case as its never been tested.

Until this week I hadn't really considered pacing too much. I'd loosely assumed I'd look to run fairly even splits throughout at about the 8:00 mark on the basis that I generally finish strongly but later revised that ever so slightly to 7:57 or so to give me a tiny bit of insurance. That's the sort of pace I've been aiming for when I've been doing any 'marathon pace' running.

What I've read this week challenges that though.

First up was an extract from a book by Pete Pfitzinger that many runners claim is the best around for marathon training. That suggests the best approach is to run the first half 1 - 3 minutes faster than the second half on the basis that the majority of runners gradually slow through the race.

Taken at face value that would have the first 13.1 miles at about 7:53 and the second at 8:07.

My assumption is that the higher average in the second half would largely be down to significantly slower last few miles rather than anything like an even 8:07 from halfway.

The second thing I read was a thread on Runners World all about the 3:30 target and that featured a very eminent coach employed by the site to give advice on the subject. He seemed extremely aware of the challenges of the last 6.2 miles and generally advised running more like 7:51 pace to halfway, then trying to maintain that until 20 miles to keep plenty in the tank for the final challenge.

That seemed to support my assumption about the first article but implied two worrying things:

  1. That I should look to run 8s a mile faster than planned and for 20 miles (can I do this?).
  2. That the effect of the last 6.2 could be huge as there would be 180 seconds in the bank at 20 miles allowing an average in the last 6 miles of around 8:30, and on the basis of no sudden change at 20 that might well imply being shot to pieces in the last couple of miles.

That scares me.

Where does all this leave me?

Well, I suppose it leaves me facing a choice of whether to take a risk and go for it (risking blowing up big time) or whether to be more conservative and go for a time more like 3:40 allowing 23 seconds a mile slower throughout.

Writing this is cathartic and I wonder if what it boils down to is that I have an excessive fear of failure that I must rationalise and overcome; and that only then can I set targets and make race day plans accordingly?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Loathsome sloth or wise Mandarin?

Yesterday was indeed normal. Generally.

My legs felt significantly improved yesterday. Still a tiny bit stiff, sore and fatigued but really not too bad. That got me considering doing the scheduled 6 mile run as an exploratory jog round the kitchen and later across a road seemed fine. I just wasn't sure though. On the one hand I felt I could do a steady short run like that and it would feel good not to skip another run; but on the other I feared that a run now might risk scuppering the recovery and limiting my ability at Wednesday's intervals. Add into the mix that by mid afternoon I had begun to feel really tired, probably a delayed effect of Sunday's efforts.

I didn't run.

That made the dieting/nutrition side a little more difficult, but by the middle of the evening I was only a little over the target I'd set myself for the day despite not having the addition of exercise calories. The target meant a bit of calorie restriction but I made sure that protein intake was still high so as not to hinder muscle repair.

My one slip up came at about 9pm. As I felt pooped, I'd laid on the bed whilst reading the Runners World forum and listening to Super Leeds United's win at Preston. At one point I opened the bedside draw to put a pen away and discovered...

...a Snickers bar.

Ah well. At least it can tempt me no more.

Overall: the glass still looks half full to me.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Let normality recommence


We were away again until Sunday evening and had a fair disruption to routine during this time - meal out with Sue's family, a big family meal, an extensive post funeral buffet, buying in food daily, a meal out with work, one night in a b&b with subsequent cooked breakfast, the perils of an over full parental biscuit tin, poor sleep, stress etc.

I'll weigh myself this morning, out of interest, and will look to eat normally over the next couple of weeks, hopefully seeing a little drop. That's important for me psychologically both in terms of benefit for running and also in order to give a feeling of control. I certainly don't want to carry on as I have been doing the last 2 weeks - I can feel and see the effects without the need of scales!

Running and exercise were hit a bit more this time.

I haven't made it to the gym (as I haven't really been here) and consequently haven't done any cross training or core work. There doesn't seem to have been a cost to that though - groin is pain free.

Running wise: so, so. I think when I last blogged I'd skipped my Tuesday run through inertia and the same thing happened with Wednesday's. The three days at home last week were a strange 'in between' period and I just couldn't stick to things.

Thursday's cross training was a victim of being away again, as was Saturday's, but I did manage Friday's tempo run and Sunday's endurance run, though both were away from home throwing in some challenges.

On Friday I managed the run OK: 1.5 miles warm up, 7.5 miles at 7:28 pace and then 1.6 miles cool down; but confess that I stopped twice during the tempo element. Not sure if I wasn't fully prepared mentally, wasn't hydrated well enough or if it was just down to my wearing clothing more suited to a temperature a few degrees lower. Probably a little of all three.

Sunday's run was the first of two 22 mile runs ahead of Paris. Distance wise I had no concerns ahead of Sunday as I'd done 21 two weeks earlier and expected to do this one a good 30s a mile slower anyway. Preparation and route weren't so easy as we were still away. For the route I decided to run a mile and a half along the Ashby canal then head north along the Coventry canal until I got to 11 miles then turn round and reverse it. I knew that a fair section of that had a good towpath and there were few, if any, locks. It did mean though, that I had to drive 50 minutes north from Sue's mothers.

Initially I'd thought to do the run at about 9:00 mile pace but later felt that might be a little slow, opting instead for 'about 8:40/8:45' and that's how I proceeded with the first two miles at 8:54 and 8:44 respectively, with the first mile held up by quite thick mud and an almost non existent tow path alongside the rarely used stretch of canal.

Then followed 8:32, 8:37, 8:29, 8:39, 8:37 and 8:28 taking me up to 7 miles with faster/slower miles generally relating to whether it was on good firm path or muddy/grass.

Round about this time I began to feel looser (having still felt Friday's run in my calves), so though I was already a fraction ahead of target I began to slowly speed up without paying any attention to the splits with 8:21, 8:15 and 8:02 taking me to halfway. That last mile and a bit had contained 6 individual and well spread downhill locks, probably accounting for the speed up in that final mile.

At that turnaround point I looked at the overall time of 1:33:38 and thought it would be nice to do this long run with negative splits, finishing in 3:06/3:07 but had no plan to do any more than that. Yet.

First return miles came in at a fairly consistent 8:16, 8:15, 8:13, 8:10 and by that last mile I'd decided (foolishly) to incorporate a few marathon pace miles from mile 16. Schoolboy error. The longest endurance runs are all about distance or time on your feet, others are a little shorter and concern running at marathon pace. The only day you bring them together is race day - not 5 weeks before.

So, I went through the next miles at 7:59, 8:03, 7:55, 7:59 and 7:58 to take me to 20 miles and from 17 onwards I'd found it appreciably tough. In fact, I'd probably felt it a little from about 13/14 miles but put that down to disjointed preparation.

I tried to push on at the same pace into mile 21 but my legs were getting weary and a little stiff and the final third of that mile was back in the thick mud which not only slowed me through slipping but also tired me out far more and, crucially, disrupted my rhythm. When I'm tired its keeping in a rhythm that keeps me going at a consistent pace; once the rhythm is gone I struggle to hold it. Mile 21 took me 8:14.

Mile 22 was a similar story, though with mud for all of it and as a result that slowed to 8:19. Mentally I was really pulling on the positive self talk to keep me going by this point though the chink in the armour was that there wasn't really a target time to aim at and earlier in the run I'd told myself I'd only go for marathon pace until 20 or 21 so I could jog the remainder. The devil on my shoulder kept reminding me of that in order to sap my resolve to try and push on at marathon pace.

Having ran a little further than 11 miles on the way out I was still 0.1 miles from 'home' and somehow summoned the energy to run that as a mini sprint finish back on tarmac. As a result the pace for that final bit was 6:50/mile. Overall, 3:03:54 for 22.10 miles.

Unfortunately (and predictably) I stiffened up quite a lot afterwards and recovery wasn't helped by the need to drive for 50 minutes to get Sue and the kids then another two and a half hours back to Leeds. I also missed the ice bath, couldn't refuel and rehydrate as well and rant out of NSAIDs an hour from home.

Yesterday I remained stiff and still feel some of it today. I may or may not do a little light exercise later, but there doesn't seem to be any lasting damage.

On the plus side it was good mental toughness training and was the penultimate (very) long run completed. I've also learned a little more about nutrition during the run and realised I need a little more water on these longer runs - another 300ml could have made a big difference to how I felt.

On the down side the muscle soreness has a bit of an effect on this week's running already and feeling that way at 22 miles with only a few at marathon pace makes 26.2 at 8:00 mile pace a little daunting a prospect.

However, while I was running I made a list. I love lists. This one concerned all the things that will be in my favour on the 10th April:
  1. I'll have the training benefit of Sunday's run and one other long one - my endurance will be stronger.
  2. I'll have completed another lengthy spell at marathon pace in this coming Sunday's run so my speed endurance will be better.
  3. I'll have had the benefit of the taper so I'll start with fresh legs.
  4. I'll have more nutrition & hydration during the run to keep me going.
  5. I'll have carb loaded beforehand so my glycogen reserves will start higher.
  6. I'll be running on a more consistent surface so I can keep a good rhythm.
  7. I'll be a few pounds lighter.
  8. I'll be wearing/carrying less kit - so less weight still.
  9. I'll be running in road shoes not mud caked trail shoes.
  10. I'll have the option of following the pacemakers.
  11. I'll be buoyed by race day adrenaline and crowd support.

Hopefully, that little lot will each contribute just a little to getting me round within target time. Allay my nerves further and let me know if there's anything I've missed!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Thanks for the kind words yesterday.

Obviously things are more difficult for Sue but we're both ok. Neither of us have had the death of anyone close to deal with in our adult lives so its just the idea of never hearing someone's voice again or never being able to tell/ask them something again that is very strange - the finality of it.

Yesterday I just couldn't get going in terms of eating normally, let alone dieting, and knew from early on I wouldn't get out for the planned run. We talked last night and agreed that until the funeral was out of the way and we got home again on Sunday things wouldn't feel normal, and just that feeling was enough to disrupt things.

I've taken on board the thoughts on diet/weight and I certainly won't be giving it any thought until Monday. Hopefully I can have 2-3 weeks of loss but we'll wait and see.

Hopefully will get online on Friday sometime.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

AWOL again

I know, I know, I've been AWOL for another week.

To cut a long story short Sue's dad had been given 6 months last July as he had cancer that had spread to his liver, and last Thursday morning he died after a very short but abrupt decline. That meant we headed down to Northamptonshire Thursday am and spent a strange few days there, coming back on Sunday evening. This Wednesday evening we'll be heading down again and coming back Sunday evening once more.

How has this affected my preparations for Paris?

Well, the diet really hasn't been good. With little food in the house we had to make regular trips to the mini-market, eat out twice, had no access to the Internet to log anything and felt little compulsion to do anything other than comfort eat anyway. Back to square one there and realistically 11st 7lb is about the best I can hope for ahead of Paris.

Running wise it was also challenging but I did better.

I'd skipped Wednesday's run after the Tuesday difficulties, and just did 30 minutes on the cross trainer on Thursday am while Sue got her things together to go to her mothers. On Friday I did just over 10 miles, with the middle 6.5 miles at 7.25, half marathon tempo pace.

Problem was we had planned to come back on Saturday so I hadn't taken the Garmin charger, trail shoes, limited clothes, no water bottle/belt. That made Sunday's run more challenging. The plan called for 12 miles with the middle 8 at marathon pace. I upped this a little, part choice, part accident of the route, so that I did 13.62 with 9 miles at marathon pace:

  • 7:47
  • 8.02
  • 7.54
  • 7.57
  • 7.56
  • 7.52
  • 7.50
  • 7.39
  • 7.41
The first one was accidentally fast - due to me not setting a 'lap' on the Garmin and getting confused - but pleased at the steady rhythm for the next few. Last couple slightly faster but can't recall if that was deliberate or not.

Quite pleased, as it felt fairly easy to run at that pace for a longer period. Strangely, it was only in the 2.6 miles cool down (9.00 mile pace) that my legs felt tired/awkward/sore. I wonder why?

This week sees 9 miles steady today, 6.5 miles intervals tomorrow, maybe 2 mile jog on Thursday (as no gym access), 10.5 miles tempo on Friday and 22 miles on Sunday.

Hope to get the diet back on track but being away again could be difficult. Just have to do what I can.

Will try to catch up on other blogs over the next few days!